Man Ray

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Like most people with an interest in the popular cultures and arts of the last hundred or so years the name Man Ray is well known to me. His body of photography, particularly that featured in the galleries of London and Paris, seems very familiar but I know little of the artist behind these iconic photos aside from his key roles in Dadaism and Surrealism and his frienship with those including Salvador Dali – see Dominic Baker’s earlier post on Dali’s work here – Salvador Dali by Dominic Baker

Born Emmanuel “Manny” Rudnitzky on 27th August 1890 in Philadelphia, the eldest of four children of Jewish tailor and his wife, Max and Minnie Rudinitzky, who had emigrated from Russia. During Manny’s childhood the family moved to Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The family changed their surname to “Ray” in 1912.

Man Ray’s artistic ability was evident early on. In 1908, following Brooklyn Boys High School, he pursued his art studies at the free thinking and socialist Ferrer School/Modern School and with Alfred Stieglitz – an influential photographer – who owned gallery “291” that featured European Modernists.

The Armoury Show in New York in 1913 featured works by Picasso and Kandinsky that greatly inspired Ray. In 1915 he met French artist Marcel Duchamp – who later described his use of a camera “as a paint brush “ – and together with Francis Picabia they comprised an informal grouping of New York Dada artists. From this era, Ray’s 1921 sculpture “The Gift” was created featuring a tailoring iron with tacks welded to its surface – thus rendering the iron’s true function, useless. Our image below shows his version from 1958 that, like many of his earlier work, were re-created by Man Ray – following his return from the US.

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Europe called and in 1921 Ray moved to Paris where he associated with the Dada and Surrelists artists in the French capital – along with Gertrude Stein and Ernest Hemingway. In Paris he pursued a lucrative career as a portrait photographer – taking photos of James Joyce amongst many others – and as fashion photographer for titles such as “Vogue”. His commercial work provided resources to developed his own style of photography called “rayographs”. These involved Ray placing and manipulating objects on pieces of photosensitive paper.

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In 1924 Ray composed and shot the iconic “Violin d’Ingres” featuring his muse and lover Kiki. Kiki also featured again in “Noire et Blanche”.

By the late 1920’s Ray had a new muse, the fashion model, Lee Miller. In 1929 he produced the stunning “Solarised’ work featuring her profile headshot.

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Our featured image “Glass Tears” dates from 1932.

Man Ray left for California in 1940 where he concentrated on his painting but returned to Paris in 1951 to continue to paint – really his preferred media – to write and sculpt. Aged 86 Ray died in Paris on 18th November 1976.

A friend from the art world once told me that often the most collectible pieces were “self portraits” – because simply it depicts how the artist sees themselves. This mischievous half bearded self portrait of Man Ray comes from 1943

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Photo credits with grateful thanks Man Ray Trust and the Lee Miller Estate

Fruit of the Loom – T shirts

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A sharp frost – with night-time temperatures in the UK dipping well below zero – after a warm Easter reminds us that although we are tempted to close the cupboard door on our winter clothing, in fact Mother Nature has other ideas.

I am a big fan of layering and the base layer for me always tends to be a T-shirt in either long or short sleeves.

For many years I have worn T-shirts made by US corporation, “Fruit of the Loom” who are based in Bowling Green, (Kentucky, USA). The company employs 32,000 people world-wide, Fruit of the Loom shares its headquarters with the excellent Russell Brands (that include one-time rapper favourite’s “Russell Athletic”) – which it acquired in in August 2006 – and is a subsidiary of The Sage of Omaha/Warren Buffett’s mighty “Berkshire Hathaway”.

The T-shirt has only been around since 1913 – we recently ran a piece that celebrated its 100th birthday  Iconic T-Shirts – when US Navy recruits were issued for the first time with white crewneck T-shirts that were made to be worn under their uniforms, giving birth to an American icon.

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Fruit of the Loom was born in 1851 by brothers Benjamin and Robert Knight, textile miller owners from Warwick (Rhode Island USA) manufacturing cotton cloth  who was visiting a shop-keeper in Providence, Rhode Island (USA) who sold Knight’s cloth. Robert Knight saw the painted apples that the shop-keeper’s daughter had applied to the bolts off cloth, with those bearing the apples apparently the most popular. Knight thought that it would be the perfect symbol for his business “Fruit of the Loom”.

In 1871, a year after the trade-mark’s registry opened Knight was granted trademark number 418 for the “Fruit of the Loom” brand. (See above the evolution of the TM to date.)

In the late 1930 and for several decades, Jacob (Jack) Goldfarb’s Union Underwear became a a Fruit of the Loom licensee that propelled the brand aways from cloth manufacturing into great quality underwear.

A variety of unsuccessful ventures led to Fruit of the Loom filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 1999 but Berkshire Hathaway Corporation, seeing the value of the brand, purchased the valuable brand in April 2002 for approximately $835m. On a equally sad note, in 2014 the company announced the closure of its Jamestown (Kentucky) plant with the loss of six hundred jobs. Production was moved to Honduras in an effort to reduce production costs with no appreciable reduction in quality.

A prevailing trend in much of Aestheticons work, particularly in relation those icons that originate in the US with its high labour costs, is that many manufacturers have moved production overseas. Central and Latin America are favourites, with The Far East, Morocco or Turkey also featuring.

Whilst I am convinced that a customer will pay a premium for a “home produced” garment or item – see the heritage lines of Dr Martens – Dr. Martens – and Clarks – Clarks Desert Boots – the profitability of brand owing businesses cannot be compromised. That said, a balance in the need to carefully control production to ensure that a customer is not simply buying his/her favourite brand that is attached to an inferior product. It’s the biggest challenge for a brand to manage overheads without any appreciable reduction in the quality of the finished item. Fruit of the Loom seem to have ensured that they retain much of their quality – both in terms of materials and finish, despite production being moved.

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How about adding some Fruit of the Loom T shirts to your ward robe – please click the Amazon link below the image to do just that – available in a variety of weights of fabric and a rainbow of colours – many are 100% cotton – an absolute favourite of mine.

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Fruit of the Loom Women’s Opaque V-Neck Short SleeveT-Shirt – Grey – Heather grey – 10

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Fruit of the Loom Men’s Super Premium Short Sleeve T-Shirt Pack Of 5, White/White/Black/Black/Ash, XX-Large

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Fruit of the Loom T-Shirts Pack of 5

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Fruit of the Loom Mens Plain Heavy Cotton T-Shirt Heather Grey Large

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Fruit of the Loom Heavy Cotton White Tee 2XL

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Dr Seuss

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I know very few parents who, when reading their child’s favourite “Dr Seuss” story, have resisted the temptation to give their version of the voice of The Cat in The Hat, The Grinch or The Lorax. My kids – or should that be my – favourites  “Green Eggs and Ham” (published in August 1960) – and the voice of “Sam-I-Am” – has also ticked the right boxes with loads of other families, because as of 2001 it was the fourth best-selling English-language children’s book of all time!

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So who is the author and illustrator responsible for these iconic, wry, whymsical and much loved books?

Today, March 2nd, is the anniversary of the birth of Theodor Seuss Geisel in 1904, in Springfield (Mass. USA), who’s better known to generations of story-time devotees by his pen-name of “Dr Seuss”. During his long career he published 48 books which have sold in excess of 200 million copies and have been translated into over 20 languages.

Geisel adopted his pen-name,”Dr. Seuss” – his Mother’s maiden name – whilst at University. He attended Dartmouth College – who’s School of Medicine now bears his name. He left Oxford University in 1927 finding work as an illustrator and cartoonist for Vanity Fair and Life magazines and as a commercial artist in New York’s advertising business.

In 1937 he wrote and illustrated his first children’s book “Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street”. These were followed The Cat in the Hat (1957), How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1957), and Green Eggs and Ham (1960). In his later years he also tackled more serious issues, such as the environment, with “Lorax” published in 1971.

He won many awards for his work including a Pulitzer Prize in 1984 and three Oscars in the 1950’s.

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In America, March 2, has been adopted as the annual National Read Across America Day, and in the UK, by coincidence, today (in 2017) is World Book Day – being the first Thursday in March – I wonder how many tall, red and white hats will be making they way to and from schools today?

In 1948 Geisel and his first wife Helen, settled in San Diego’s beautiful seaside community of La Jolla (California, USA), died on September 24, 1991, aged 87. Sadly, Dr Seuss himself never became a father.

Why not enjoy Dr Seuss with your entire family with this amazing collection of the Dr Seuss books – please click the link following the image

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A Classic Case Of Dr Seuss

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Images courtesy of The Dr Seuss Estate

Ralph Lauren Polo Shirt

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Launched: 1972

Designer: Ralph Lifshitz (aka Ralph Lauren) developed his version of the Polo Shirt design – which was first launched by Rene Lacoste in 1933 – see our post here – Lacoste Shirt.

History: After designing and retailing ties, Ralph developed his Polo brand first with ties and then shirts – gaining the rights from Brooks Brothers (for whom he worked briefly in late 1964) – see our post here – Brooks Brothers Shirts  – in the process who to this day use the “original polo button-down collar” shirt on their button down range.

Launched in 1972 in 24 colours this pique cotton shirt – often features the number 3 – said to represents the number that the captain of the Polo team typically wears.

My Ralph Lauren Polo Shirt: Perhaps re-imagined and derivative but in the 1990’s a Ralph Polo shirt with its little polo-player logo was very good short hand for who you were. It continues to come in a range of amazing colours and if anything I suspect they are now cut even a little fuller than they once were. They are hard wearing and a great accompaniment to summer time short. I am very fond of them even it is only a rare sight to see me on a horse – with or without a polo stick in my hand.

Your Ralph Lauren Polo Shirt: Share your love for these fabulous shirts here….

Photo from Ralph Lauren with grateful thanks